Justice, Capito concerned about House GOP’s Obamacare replacement

MORGANTOWN (AP) — Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday that he agrees with the state’s U.S. senators that they can’t kick West Virginians off Medicaid “and leave them in the cold.”

Responding to a proposal by congressional Republicans to replace the Affordable Care Act, Justice said he’s asked his health secretary to examine how the change would affect West Virginians.

About 35,000 people statewide have commercial coverage through the federal marketplace established under so-called Obamacare. The program allows most to qualify for federal subsidies that reduce their premiums.

About 175,000 more enrolled through Medicaid, which the state expanded by raising income eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That expansion has been funded almost entirely with federal dollars, which the House proposal would reduce.

“I agree with Sen. Capito and Sen. Manchin that we can’t kick West Virginians off of Medicaid and leave them in the cold,” Justice said. “I have my DHHR Secretary looking at the specifics of this new proposal and how it will impact West Virginia and what changes and reductions in all of those government regulations to the law could help our people.”

The new governor, a wealthy businessman, was elected as a Democrat in a state that overwhelmingly voted for Republican Donald Trump, a wealthy businessman who promised to replace Obamacare.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito joined three Republican colleagues in criticizing the House proposal to replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying they won’t support a plan lacking stability for people enrolled in expanded Medicaid.

“We are concerned that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services,” the four wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “We believe Medicaid needs to be reformed, but reform should not come at the cost of disruption in access to health care for our country’s most vulnerable and sickest individuals.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said he’s still reviewing the bill but has “serious concerns” about how it will impact West Virginians.

Renate Pore, healthy policy director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said 19,000 young adults in the state covered under their parents’ policies would continue under the House replacement. “But it would affect the tax credits in the marketplace. They would be sharply reduced.”

It would also change the funding formula now used for the Medicaid expansion “much to West Virginia’s detriment,” Pore said. Now 95 percent federally funded, that coverage would decline under current law to 90 percent. Under the House bill the federal share would drop to 73 percent, she said.

“We would need $160 million a year in state money to fill that hole,” she said.

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